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Negative Self-Talk

Jumping the Troll

Photo Credit: Marianne Messina  Caption: "Find images that make you smile." (Andean Bears, Nashville Zoo)

The nagging self-talk Ariana Huffington compares to a bad roommate (in  “Evicting the Obnoxious Roommate in Your Head”), I have dubbed a Troll. My Troll is like the one hollering at 3 Billy Goats Gruff from under a bridge, basically an inner curmudgeon. It swings a four-letter pick-axe and comes in a sudden, fiery ball like a volcanic belch. 

I recognize this Troll as a composite of people I’ve known. They are people who, when I was young, seemed to wield a lot of power. (The Troll is a power-seeking missile.) However, in retrospect, I see that their rants came from an overpowering sense of past, unredressed wounds. 

Contrary to Ms. Huffington, I do not wish to capture the creature on video for my viewing horror. My inner eye often catches the tail end of the Troll’s ranting and chest-thumping. And a glimpse of it is enough. My first step is to jump out of the Troll like a bad Halloween costume and leave it “over there.” That part is easy. 

I’ve observed, however, that once I’ve jumped the Troll, the space left by its absence feels like abject disappointment. In meditative practice, you are supposed to “sit with” that feeling. But typically when the Troll strikes, you are not in meditation, you are in the car, or in a customer service line, and it isn’t long before the urge to re-Troll starts building. It’s hard to just shift gears and un-Troll completely. Here is where Troll-strike preparedness comes in. Solid forethought is advised. So I’ve been working on this, and over time have developed a few techniques that work for me:

#1 Find a good affirmation and practice it till it works. You may have to test and refine it in a Troll-free zone. Know that affirmations don’t always work right away. And some of the best ones begin as statements you utterly don’t believe. “My salary will double within two years.” Yeah right. (That was the Troll talking.) It can take many sessions with an affirmation before it clicks, and yields positive feelings. But once it starts clicking, it makes great Troll repellant.

#2. Find an event, outing, or practice that gets you excited – preferably one you don’t get to do often – and make plans to do it. Is there a concert coming to town? A film you’ve put off seeing? A hike you haven’t found time for? Start planning – even if ultimately you don’t follow through. The joy of planning squeezes out the Troll.

#3. Watch or imagine an object of your passion in action. If you don’t have access to an image or video, picture it in your mind; imagine the setting, and go there: A loved one is approaching, puppies are playing, a gemstone is sparkling … Or, my personal go-to: baby rhinos are running

The act of watching or imagining things that make us smile with fondness offers great sublimation for stress. And it also works to dispell Trolls. 

Good luck!

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